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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Roe-Thorsteindøttir Duo / Sunday, February 01, 2015
Elizabeth Joy Roe, piano; Sæunn Thorsteinsdøttir, cello

Cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

KNOTTY CELLO MUSIC THAT WAS (MOSTLY) EASY TO LOVE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 01, 2015

Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Superbowl fans.

In the first half contrasts abounded, beginning with the charming Beethoven Variations on “Bei Männern” from the Magic Flute and ending with the demanding Britten Sonata from 1961. The seven Beethoven variations served as an excellent warm up work, the balances good and the cellist using chaste vibrato and a secure and radiant bow style. Acoustics in the hall gave the instrument a pellucid sound, carrying easily to upper rows of seats.

The Britten is a tough work to love with sad, lyrical and restless sections combining in its five movements. Using the score as she did throughout the recital Ms. Thorsteindóttir played the long first movement with intensity, ending it with an extended tranquil fermata that was echoed by Ms. Roe’s gentile right hand tremolo. The aggressive pizzicato technique in the Scherzo was juxtaposed by demanding bursts from the piano, a question and answer dialogue that was compelling.

A plodding dirge characterized the following Elegia with bracing washes of sound and broad notes from the cello and hushed up-and-down octave jumps from the piano. The playing in the fourth movement caught the bouncy and banal nature of the music that turned at times to eerie and strident cello notes high on the fingerboard.

Skittish outbursts permeated the playing in the concluding finale and the tempos were fast but never out of control. The unison playing was faultless. The applause was substantial but not protracted.

Rachmaninoff’s early Sonata in G Minor, an easy piece to love, took up the entire second half and received a generous and grand reading. Ms. Thorsteindóttir doesn’t command a big outgoing sound, but she has a salutary tone quality and was ready to defer pride of place to her partner in many sections. The Rachmaninoff piece needs a pianist with a big technique and profile, and Ms. Roe was up to the task. As is well known with Rachmaninoff there are a lot of notes (difficult ones too) but if some are skipped or smudged the texture isn’t quite right. The pianist’s playing occasionally had this result and covered the cellist with extended use of the shift pedal and lavish employment of the damper pedal.

The second and third movement performances were highlights of the concert, especially in the provocative scherzo where the players were on fire with inspiration. The themes overflowed with passion. In the famous Largo Ms. Thorsteindóttir’s first entry following the lovely piano introduction was opulently colored and her conception throughout was subtle and restrained.

The playing of the weighty themes in the finale lacked clarity but was never wanting in momentum and potency. This music animated the audience of 250 and a standing ovation resulted.

Ms. Thorsteindóttir announced an encore, the short slow movement from the Chopin G Minor Sonata, Op. 65. Here the playing was captivating, each phrase integrated in a shapely and prismatic whole.